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January 10, 2023

Are Music Festivals Over-Reliant on Facebook and Instagram in 2023?

For most music festivals, Facebook and Instagram are the channels they rely on most to sell tickets. But what would happen if these platforms disappeared tomorrow? Warning: Your ticket sales could disappear overnight.

Facebook in particular is hugely valuable for promoters of every type and in virtually every market. But, while it might seem counterintuitive, the real value of these platforms isn't found in the tools that they offer, or the communication options they've opened up. No, the real value is more difficult to see: it's your data.

Festival and concert promoters spend countless hours building and tending to their audiences on social platforms. But, as we'll see in this article, an over-reliance on these tech giants is dangerous - as marketers learned in 2018, when Facebook changed the rules of engagement at a stroke.

We're going to explore why festivals and concert promoters should be taking back control of their data from the platform giants, and how they can do it. But first - how did we get here?

An early paradise

In the early days, Facebook was festival marketer's paradise. With a bit of creative thinking, content could enjoy vast organic reach - and the impact on ticket sales was real and substantial. Facebook Event pages completely transformed promoters' businesses, quickly becoming the primary sales channel for many events. Best of all, it was completely free - and if you wanted to experiment with paid advertising, CPCs on the platform were almost unbelievably low. The real kicker, though, was Facebook's targeting tools, which now offer music festival marketers staggering granular control over the audiences they want to talk to and the messaging they want to deliver to specific segments. Festival promoters quickly got addicted.

Facebook's algorithm change

Today, the landscape on Facebook is very different - and much more challenging. Perhaps the most destructive change has been the almost total collapse in organic reach.

In January 2018 Facebook made a major change to its ranking algorithm, as part of Mark Zuckerberg's mission to "fix Facebook". As he said at the time: “You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.” The impact was rapid and devastating. Organic posts suddenly had almost zero reach; the most important weapon in many promoters' marketing arsenals was snatched away overnight. And, understandably, many festivals felt like they'd been tricked. They'd spent huge amounts of time and effort building up often sizeable audiences on Facebook, and suddenly they were being forced to buy ads in order to reach them. The message from Facebook to businesses was simple: from now on, if you want to speak to your fans, you'll have to pay us for the privilege.

Rising CPCs

Meanwhile, the cost of Facebook ads has gradually but significantly increased. According to AdEspresso, average cost per click (CPC) for on-platform Facebook ads doubled during 2018 alone, rising to USD$0.44 from around $0.21 at the beginning of the year. Today, the average CPC across all markets hovers at around $0.97. Granted, these remain amongst the cheapest rates of the major social networks. Even with that proviso, though, Facebook is no longer the high-return, low-risk golden bullet it once was.

To compound the problems (and, in fact, in perhaps the biggest existential threat to Facebook as a company), the platform has lost much of the cultural caché it used to enjoy. The exodus of millennials has been well documented, and festival and event promoters may find it increasingly difficult to find receptive audiences - although, as we'll discuss shortly, Facebook's targeting features are some of the best in the game.

Why it’s risky to over-rely on these tech platforms

Simply put, you don’t own the valuable audience data that is collected on these platforms.

Think about it. Most promoters spend tons of time investing in creating events, building audiences, developing creative and graphics, and interacting with fans on Facebook. Yet, all of the data captured belongs to a third party. And when all of your audience data is siloed into one platform, that you don’t own, you take on the risk of less exposure to your audience. You are then at the mercy of Facebook’s ever-evolving algorithm changes like the News Feed change.

So what can you do about it?

We're categorically not saying that you should abandon Facebook or Instagram. They will remain hugely important marketing channels. What you should absolutely be doing, however, is unlocking the real power of those platforms: your data.

As we've already seen, entrusting your audience data to third-party platforms can be a disastrous risk. But isn't it also deeply unfair? You built those audiences, not Facebook, so you should be able to talk to them however you want. By owning your audience data you can free yourself from the whims of the social media giants - and, with software like Audience Republic's Insights, it doesn't have to cost a fortune.

So what can you do to reduce your reliance on the giant platforms? Here are five steps you can take right now.

#1 Don't just put your eggs in a different basket.

The answer to over-reliance on Facebook or Instagram is not to become over-reliant on yet another third-party platform. Avoid the temptation to simply flee to the next buzzy new thing.

Instead, take ownership of your audience data to make it work for you. Owning your data helps you drive more ticket sales in comparison to other stand forms of marketing such as a sponsored Instagram post. Find a platform that allows you to bring together all of your data across multiple sources such as your email contact list, your ticket sales data, and Facebook Custom Audience data.

Audience Manager is the platform that is all about bringing together your customer data in one place. You can easily import all the customer data you care about via a CSV file or automatically sync contact data with integrations to the apps you already use such as Evenbrite, Messenger, Facebook Audiences, and Spotify.

#2 Kill it across the channels you control.

Social isn't the only game in town. Rather than dedicating all your marketing resources to building new Facebook ads, think about exciting new ways you can leverage your existing audience through other channels such as SMS and email. These might have fallen out of favour somewhat, but they still present amazing opportunities with the right concept and creative; check out this great phone campaign from Red Bull Music Academy for an example.

There is so much power in communicating with your fans across the channels you own. Not convinced? Email marketing generates an ROI of 3800%, Facebook Messenger is the second most downloaded app, and SMS messages have a 98% open rate.

We’ve built an all-in-one messaging platform designed for event organizers. With our platform you can send targeted messages to your audience across multiple communication channels. From a single view you can send your audience messages across Facebook Messenger, SMS, and email.

#3 Make your data pay.

Audience data should be one of your most prized assets. If you want independence from the platform giants, you need to know how to get the very best out of the data that you already hold.

We have industry-leading software to help you understand your audience, and gain actionable insights that will help you sell more tickets. Here are a three ways you can use these insights:

  1. Identify new ambassadors that can sell tickets for you and further extend the reach of your event’s brand. Top referrers are people who have referred the most friends for your Campaigns such as pre-sale, competitors, or waitlists. Send a direct message to invite your top referrers to become ambassadors to sell tickets for you.
  2. Identify your top fans that have spent the most money at your event(s). These are the fans who support your event and brand the most. Keep their support, and encourage them to keep buying tickets, by rewarding them with awesome experiences such as giveaways, VIP tickets, or meet and greets. You can also unlock further insights about these customers, so you can find more of them. This data is based on previous campaigns and events you have run.
  3. See which artists and tracks your fans are listening to the most. With our Spotify integration, we pull in data from your fan’s listening history over the last 90 days. This data is extremely helpful for concert and music festival promoters to use when thinking about next year’s artist lineup. Get closer to your fans by getting a deeper understanding of the artists they listen to on the daily.

#4 Segment, segment, segment.

Blanket messaging is inefficient - and, in a world in which consumers are used to more and more granular personalization, a pro forma communication can be an active turn-off. Take some time to segment your audience database, using categories or profiles that make sense for your event.

Insights give you extraordinary power and precision over your segmentation. Create and save filters to target your fans in the way that serves you best. With the filters you save, event organizers can send highly targeted emails and messages.

To boost your ticket sales you can create a filter of fans who have purchased a ticket to your event last year but not this year. These fans are more likely to purchase a ticket to this year’s event vs acquiring a new fan that has never attended one of your events. Incentivize them to purchase a ticket by sending an email with a special discount code. For more info on how you can incentivize fans, check out Campaigns.

#5 Make them beg for more.

Finally, a very important piece: make your creative truly pop. Do not under any circumstances scrimp on the actual content of your communications. You and your marketing team have invested time and energy into your event’s brand, look and feel, and overall vibe. Bring your event to life throughout your creative across your owned marketing channels. Our email platform allows you to create beautiful emails with a drag and drop builder.

Think about what makes your event unique, and play to those strengths; think up campaign strategies that nobody else is using yet; and make your audience feel special through personalized messaging. You want your marketing to become an intrinsic part of a unique event experience - something your audience enjoys and look forward to beyond the lifecycle of the event itself.

To recap…

The big social platforms aren't your friends, and an over-reliance on any of them spells potential disaster.

To survive and thrive, make sure you take an integrated approach to your event marketing plan, utilizing a broad range of channels. And, at every stage, make sure that you control your data - not third-party platforms. Amplifying your existing audience database is the best way to sell more tickets, faster.

Are you hosting a music festival, gig, or concert? Audience Republic can help you sell more tickets. Create a free account or request a demo of our software platform.

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Article by
Jared Kristensen

Jared is the CEO & Co-founder at Audience Republic. Jared is also the Executive Producer of the Music Tech Summit which explores how technology is completely changing the music industry.